Replanting Goshin III
The Golden State Bonsai Federation and The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens regained an important bonsai masterpiece on Saturday, March 23, 2019, when John Naka’s foemina forest Goshin III was replanted. The GSBF Collection at The Huntington and the California Bonsai Society hosted the event, which took place at the Botanical Auditorium in the Brody Botanical Center at the Huntington.
The repotting team was led by Jack Sustic, former curator of the North American Bonsai Collection at the US National Arboretum in Washington D.C. While serving as curator of that collection, Jack was responsible for the maintenance and care of the original
“Goshin.” However, as a friend and devotee of John’ Naka’s, Jack also participated in the creation of both “Goshin II” and “Goshin III.” “It is a highlight of my life to do this,” Jack told us during the replanting.
The original “Goshin,” or Guardian of the Spirit, is far and away the most famous American bonsai. The planting features 11 foemina junipers (Juniperus chinensis ‘Foemina’), with training of the oldest starting in 1948. As arranged, the trees represent John’s children and grandchildren.
John donated the tree to the National Bonsai Foundation in 1984, and it moved to the US National Arboretum where it remains to this day. However the California bonsai community felt the loss of such an important masterpiece and requested that John re-create it. At two different convention events in the 1990’s, John and a team created replicas.
Known as “Goshin II” and “Goshin III,” the plantings were subsequently given to each of the GSBF Collection sites, the GSBF Bonsai Museum at Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA, and the GSBF Collection at The Huntington, respectively. “Goshin III” arrived at The Huntington in February, 2001.
Due to various circumstances, including some of the aggressive work during the initial planting and the use of trees that had less developed root systems, “Goshin III” suffered. A couple of the trees died; others were weakened by degraded soil. In April, 2015, the forest was disassembled and the individual trees were planted in separate pots with good bonsai soil. Over the past few years, they were brought back to health and groomed to build more complete, refined foliage pads. In addition, new trees were developed as replacements.
Jack’s replanting team consisted of Huntington Bonsai Curator Ted Matson, Doug McGavin, who was part of the original Goshin III team, and bonsaists Mel Ikeda and Mel Carillo.
Before Goshin III was taken apart, it was carefully photographed from several angles so that the replanting could replicate the original tree placement as much as possible. The forest was put back into the original Goshin III pot.
The reassembling of the trees took about three hours and was watched by a full house of bonsai enthusiasts and interested Huntington visitors.
The background for this article is taken from an article titled “Guardians of the Spirit” by Lisa Blackburn on Verso, The Huntington’s blog.